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Mount Ascutney: 2 routes to Vermont's most famous "volcano"

Updated: Dec 28, 2023


Mount Ascutney Summit

A volcano in Vermont? Really? While the nature of how Mount Ascutney formed is still up for debate, one thing is for sure, it is an awesome hike. And with several different routes to reach this prominent mountain, it is a landmark that is certainly worth a visit.


 

Trail Info

Mount Ascutney Trail Information Table

Know before you go

  • These trails close for mud season which is typically in April and May every year. Bummer if that's when you are trying to hike, but honestly it's pretty miserable and you can cause considerable damage to trails when they are muddy.

  • This area is popular for cross country skiing in winter. You are more likely to see this on the Windsor trail, but there trails specifically designed for skiing.

  • There are additional routes to Ascutney but I won't be covering them in this post since I haven't done them. These trails include the Brownsville Trail, Futures Trail, and the Summit Trail.


Which route should I choose?

While the trails are similar in terms of there overall physical and technical difficulty, there are a things to consider:


  • Windsor Trail has a very consistent grade while Weathersfield has a few sharper inclines. I would say it's barely noticeable, but there is a section on the Weathersfield Trail where you have to climb something like a ladder.

  • Windsor Trail is easier to get to. It is located closer to highway 91 than Weathersfield and is directly on Highway 44. Weathersfield requires a dirt road to reach the parking area.

  • Both trails have river crossings, but Windsor's are longer and trickier. This is particularly true during winter, where it is more like an ice crossing than a river crossing.

  • Weathersfield has a few more landmarks along the way, the most interesting being Cascade Falls. It also has a few nice viewpoint to see the surrounding area before hitting the summit. Windsor does have some lookouts and landmarks nearby, but they require slightly longer detours whereas the landmarks on Weathersfield are basically on the trail.




 

Weathersfield Trail


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

Weathersfield Trail begins along an obvious path from the parking lot. The trail is well-marked by white blazes and signs. Unless you're doing this after a huge snowfall (in which case the blazes could be covered), navigation shouldn't be an issue.


Little Cascade Falls on Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

It won't take long before you will reach Little Cascade Falls. I couldn't tell you what these falls look like when they are flowing as I've only done this trail in winter. But given how gorgeous they are when frozen, I'm guessing they are just as pretty in those summer months.


Little Cascade Falls on Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

In this area, follow the markers which will lead you to a small stream crossing. Or in my case, an ice crossing. It isn't a big crossing, so it should be doable in most conditions.


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

Shortly after the crossing what I consider the trickiest part of the entire trail. It's a steep and possibly icy ascent up some rocks and then a set of stairs. If you're hiking this trail in shoulder season or winter, microspikes are a necessity.


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

After the ascent you will hit a junction where you can either head to Cascade Falls or bypass it to keep pushing to the summit. At only 0.1 mile detour it's probably worth the side trip.


Cascade Falls on Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

Because even if it is completely frozen over, Cascade Falls is quite pretty. This area also has a nice lookout of some of the surrounding mountains, given you yet another reason to make this short detour :).


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

After leaving the falls, you will continue the climb to the summit. This ascent is a consistently steep grade (20-30%) so be prepared to put in some effort. But getting that heart rate up while trekking through this winter wonderland is just what the doctor ordered.


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

There are several nice lookouts along the Weathersfield trail. The first, Harry's Lookout, will give you a western facing view where you may be able to see some of Vermont's Green Mountain. The second, Gus's Lookout, will give you views to the south. Other stops include West Peak and the Hang Glider Launch area. I highly recommend taking the time to hit a few of these because it makes you appreciate the trail even more.


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

As you near the summit, you will begin to see junctions to other trails in the area. Luckily, there are plenty of signs to direct. Follow the signs for the Observation Tower, which is where we will really get those epic views.


Weathersfield Trail to Mount Ascutney

And we made it to the summit! That's actually a communications tower, but the observation tower with the viewing platform will be just past it. We will show you those summit views shortly...


Windsor Trail


Windsor Trail to Mount Ascutney

The Windsor Trail has a very different start than Weathersfield. After parking in the small lot (note parking is limited), you will cross this open field and head into the trees.


Windsor Trail to Mount Ascutney

Similar to Weathersfield, Windsor is also extremely well marked, with signs and blazes throughout, so no need to worry about getting lost.


Windsor Trail to Mount Ascutney

As you begin the ascent, you may hear some flowing water. That is because there is a stream flowing to your left. It creates a nice ambience, but also serves as a reminder that you will have to cross that soon.


Windsor Trail to Mount Ascutney

I found it useful to include this picture, which was taken in a similar location to the previous picture. This is what this trail might look like when it is not snow covered. Crazy enough, these photos were taken almost exactly a year apart (in mid February). That just shows how different snowfall can be season to season.


Windsor Trail to Mount Ascutney

Remember that stream crossing I mentioned? Here it is. You will only have to cross the river twice on the ascent (and twice on the descent). There's plenty of support with ropes to grab on to help your balance. That said, if you hit it in shoulder season or winter, expect ice like this. I'll reiterate that microspikes are necessary here.



Video footage of that crossing!


Windsor Trail to Mount Ascutney

After surviving those river crossings, the trail will continue to wind through the trees as you gain elevation. There are more junctions on Windsor (compared to Weathersfield) as many of the other routes to the summit approach the peak from this side. It is well marked so follow the signs for Windsor Trail and the Observation Tower and you won't have any issues reaching the summit.



The Summit


Mount Ascutney Summit

Speaking of the observation tower, here it is! Sure it isn't a natural peak, but I'm ok with a little man made infrastructure if it allows me to get a view above the trees. Here we're looking west towards the iconic Killington Ski Resort AKA the "Beast of the East."


Mount Ascutney Summit

And I know that because there are these conveniently placed signs for each direction you face, identifying all the major peaks. It's a nice touch to an already lovely hike.


Mount Ascutney Summit

Hopefully the wind is tame so you can soak in that full 360 view. Each direction I looked had its own little personality.


Mount Ascutney Summit

What a beautiful day and a beautiful hike!



 


SS Reflections

While most of my time living in this area was spent bagging New Hampshire's 4,000 footers, this hike was special to me. It was convenient, but provided enough of a challenge and trail variety that it would satisfy that hiking itch. And the payoff at the top is something that is hard to get in this part of Vermont. My only hope is that I can return to this place at some point in the future, to complete the other 3 paths to this awesome summit!




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